The decision of the government of the separatist Somaliland two weeks ago turned the Abu Dhabi-run Berbera military airport into a civilian airport, a new setback for Abu Dhabi’s plots in the Horn of Africa.
The UAE is in control in areas overlooking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, through military and economic activity in that vital area, according to local sources in the targeted areas.
At a cost of about $ 442 million, the UAE signed an agreement with Somaliland in February 2017 to build and develop the Berbera port, for 30 years, to become a UAE military base.
The deal has sparked political outrage from opposition parties in Somaliland and the federal government in Mogadishu, accusing the UAE of violating Somalia’s sovereignty through an illegal agreement.
In 1991, Somaliland declared independence from the rest of Somalia, but has so far received no international recognition.
According to Faisal Ali Warabi, head of the Awad party, which is allied with the ruling Kaleme party in the region, “what was reported in the media about Berbera airport is a misrepresentation of the statements made by Somali Prime Minister (Musa Behe Abdi). He said the airport would become a mixed-use airport.
According to Somali media, Abdi announced the transforming of Berbera military airport, which is run by the UAE, to a civilian airport to receive domestic and foreign flights.
“The Somaliland government is committed to the agreement with the UAE. The decision to divert the airport to provide civilian services was taken in agreement with the UAE side, and does not mean the cancellation of the three-decade-old agreement,” he said.
The statements of the Prime Minister of “Somaliland” regarding the transformation of the UAE’s Berbera military airport into a civilian airport contradict the statements of the continuation of the UAE military tasks at the airport. This reflects, according to observers, the ambiguity of the position of the local government, which is facing pressure from the opposition parties in the region and the federal government. In order to invalidate the agreement with Abu Dhabi.
Mahmoud Mohamed Hassan, director of the Hargeisa Center for Studies and Research, said that “some opposition parties in Somaliland, including the homeland party, that the Convention is invalid and contrary to the Constitution, and that the vote in the Somali Parliament in favor of the Convention was a kidnapping of the legitimate authority.”
On the reports of disobeying army units to reject the agreement to build a UAE military base in “Somaliland”, Hassan said: “There is opposition, but it did not reach the stage of rebellion of units of the army, which is not dependent on official or concerned sources.”
Observers believe that Mogadishu’s position on the role of the UAE in Somaliland was decisive, as it considered that the agreement is illegal and violates its sovereignty.
Somalia did not stop at the invalidity of the agreement, but resorted to regional and international platforms, where he submitted a memorandum of protest to the Arab League and the UN Security Council, which rejects the agreement legally, which makes the agreement between Somaliland and the UAE in vain in the face of strong international opposition.
The UAE’s investment plans in the ports of the Horn of Africa are not in line with the foreign investment approach, but aims to dry up the sources of other economy to serve its ports, which attract millions of containers per day at the expense of the countries overlooking the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
The UAE is also exploiting the needs of poor countries by luring them with extravagant funds in order to pass their efforts to control the ports and sources of their economies. But most of these countries have realized the secrecy of these investments and have broken agreements such as Djibouti.
In February 2018, Djibouti canceled the Dorali Port Management Agreement with the UAE’s Dubai Ports for unjust terms that undermined its sovereignty, prompting the company to resort to international arbitration.
Somaliland’s decision to turn the UAE’s Berbera military airport into a civilian airport is a blow that will limit the UAE’s efforts to expand into the Horn of Africa.
If the index is delayed permanently, the scope of the UAE’s military missions will be reduced in Somaliland and Somalia as a whole.
“The tension between the UAE and Somalia is due to the stances of Mogadishu, which disappointed the UAE and Saudi foreign policy orientations in the wake of the Gulf crisis in 2017, which led Somalia to enter regional alliances and sign treaties,” said Al-Shafei Aptdon, a researcher at the Somalia Center for Studies. And an agreement with Turkey and Qatar, which is Somalia further away from the Saudi axis and the UAE.
“The transformation of the Berbera military airport into a civilian airport comes in the midst of an Emirati retreat from the region, amid increasing criticism inside the UAE,” he said. Somalia and Sudan.”
He continued that “the change of the military airport to a civilian airport reflects a serious understanding between the separatist territory of Somaliland and the United Arab Emirates to ease tension in Somaliland as well, against the backdrop of news of the emergence of a military rebellion, although it lacks credibility from reliable sources.
He said that “the future of Somalia’s relations with the UAE depends on the extent of the response of the parties to enter a new phase after the diplomatic tension.” He concluded that “any willingness to negotiate between them will open the door to new relations, unless there are other countries stand on the lookout to prevent the return of phone heat between Abu Dhabi and Mogadishu to where it was.”